Mercedes was planning to introduce a battery electric vehicle in 2018, but pressure from Tesla and other luxury manufacturers like BMW and Audi has forced the company to move up its timetable. Now, as reported by CAR magazine, Mercedes will bring not one but four battery electric vehicles to market starting in 2017.
The new cars will be built on a dedicated chassis known internally as EVA, which stands for “electric vehicle architecture.” It will mount the batteries under the floor of the cars, keeping that weight as low as possible to the road. It wasn’t all that long ago that car makers thought they could get away with just stuffing batteries under the seats and in the trunk, which would save them the cost of engineering all new products from the ground up.
But the success of Tesla has convinced them it must follow the California company’s lead if they want to build competitive products. According to CAR, the EVA chassis is not entirely new. It adopts elements of the modular rear-drive MRA architecture, such as the electronics platform, the suspension, and the basic body structure.
Mercedes says it will begin with a sedan that fits between the C Class and E Class cars of today. It will be followed closely by a crossover SUV that should fit in between the current GLC and GLE in size. Later, a larger electric car similar in size to the S Class is planned, as well an SUV that is larger than the current GLS. At one time, Mercedes had planned to build a new “green” factory for its electric cars, but has decided to manufacture all its battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars at its facility in Bremen in northern Germany.
What will the new cars look like? Mercedes chief designer Gordon Wagener, tells Automotive News, “We have a strong strategy, and if you look at last year’s concept cars, they can give you some indication of where we are going. A full electric would definitely have an expression of its own. We will keep the grille, although I can’t tell you yet in which form.” He says the IAA concept it had on display at the Frankfurt auto show offers important clues. “Our Frankfurt concept was inspired by the airflow and streamlined spirit of the 1930s. We wanted to show that an aero car can look beautiful. The aero effect, with the long tail end, brings significant advantages at highway speeds and this is important in an electric.”
The electric cars from Mercedes will showcase such special features as an adaptive electronic suspension, selective regenerative braking, and torque vectoring.. The plan is to sell at least 20,000 units of each body style annually at prices starting around $100,000.